Males caring for offspring is a good reproductive strategy

Mar 28, 2007

Caring fathers in the animal world aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage compared with those who abandon their offspring.

In many species, males may increase their reproductive success in either of two ways: by caring for their offspring, which enhances offspring survival, or by deserting and searching for additional mating opportunities. Which of these alternatives will evolve under a given set of circumstances can be analysed with mathematical models, according to new research from the University of Bristol, published today in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Dr Lutz Fromhage and colleagues in the Centre for Behavioural Biology at Bristol University have devised a new model that refutes the view, put forward in earlier work, that increased reproductive success through male care is intrinsically less valuable than increased reproductive success through desertion.

Their model takes into account a number of factors surrounding caring and deserting males. For example, both male types may be equally susceptible to paternity loss or caring males may have a superior ability to defend their paternity, and a caring male may reduce its amount of care in response to being cuckolded, thus decreasing the survival chances of offspring fathered by deserters.

Dr Fromhage said: “Earlier work has suggested that any gain accrued to deserters through re-mating inflicts an exactly corresponding decrement on carers, and thus has a double impact on the relative reproductive success of the two male types. However, this double impact only arises if the male types occur with equal frequency and deserting males are maximally biased towards cuckolding caring males rather than other deserting males.

“Such an assumption is hard to justify biologically, especially since caring males may often be in a better position to defend their paternity. If the latter is true, then male care actually provides a twofold advantage and can be maintained despite high probabilities that deserting males achieve an extra-pair copulation.

“Our model thus rejects the view that a fitness gain achieved through male care is generally worth less than an alternative fitness gain through re-mating. This point is critical to the interpretation of past and future studies of parental care, sexual selection and the evolution of mating systems.”

Source: University of Bristol

Explore further: Is fleet diversity key to sustainable fisheries?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Evolution of competitiveness

Oct 29, 2014

Virtually all organisms in the living world compete with members of their own species. However, individuals differ strongly in how much they invest into their competitive ability. Some individuals are highly competitive and ...

A battle for ant sperm

Oct 28, 2014

And you thought the sexual battles between people could get weird and fierce? Try ants. In a new study, biologists at the University of Vermont have discovered some queen ants that make sexual bondage into ...

Recommended for you

Is fleet diversity key to sustainable fisheries?

44 minutes ago

Concern about fisheries is widespread around the world. Over the past several decades, a robust discussion has taken place concerning how to manage fisheries better to benefit ecosystems and humans. Much of the discussion ...

Strange, fanged deer persists in Afghanistan

1 hour ago

More than 60 years after its last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs still persists in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan according to a research team led by the Wildlife ...

Captive rhinos exposed to urban rumbles

2 hours ago

The soundtrack to a wild rhinoceros's life is wind passing through the savannah grass, birds chirping, and distant animals moving across the plains. But a rhinoceros in a zoo listens to children screaming, cars passing, and ...

'Divide and rule'—raven politics

4 hours ago

Mythology has attributed many supernatural features to ravens. Studies on the cognitive abilities of ravens have indeed revealed that they are exceptionally intelligent. Ravens live in complex social groups ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.